Have you ever sat beside a river or a stream and just felt mesmerized by its movement? I honestly could sit next to water and just watch its power for hours on end. I love to see how the smallest stream can make such a huge difference to the ground that surrounds it.
This, to me, is a very clear reflection of faith.Regardless of their size, streams and rivers are never the same. The constant flow of water changes things on a daily basis.It carries away the broken things that land in its path, smooths the ragged edges of the stones that line its bottom, and feeds the flowers and grasses that grow up along the bank. Even in those times when there is drought or flood, the water soon washes away the reminders of the negative experience and not only returns things to they way they were previously, but often returns them to a new existence that is better than what it had been before. Maybe it’s not as pretty or structured, but its new wildness creates something far better than what was there before..
My faith has certainly done this for me. For example, I know that the constant presence of faith in my life has significantly altered those things I was certain were true ten years ago have long since changed. My perspective has shifted and the harder edges of my thoughts have been smoothed by God’s presence in my life.
Of course, it’s not always easy. there are days when having faith is an uphill battle. When saying I am a Christian is not only hard, but at times, embarrassing; when having faith is a choice rather than a joy. I have to choose to remember God and His presence in my life and be joyful for it despite the struggle I am in.
Faith, like bodies of water, isn’t always gentle and peaceful. Flood waters rage, tsunami’s and hurricanes destroy everything in their path, and sometimes even the slow seeping of the slightest amount of water can destroy a foundation of what otherwise is a solid home.
I was reminded of this as I read a post on my Facebook feed telling the story of an atheist academic who found her way to Christ.
This person, Holly Ordway, did not find her way to faith in a way that would fit neatly into a typical “testimony”. There was no specific catalyst (at least in the article) that caused her to change her mind – no struggle with addiction, no loss of a loved one, nothing. My former evangelism professor would have been appalled. For him, and for many Christians I have come across, there seems to be this idea that faith comes because of an event or circumstance. There is even a “recipe” for a testimony I had to memorize when I attended seminary: “I didn’t believe but then there was this life changing event and now I do.” To be perfectly honest, those formulaic testimonies kind of give me the creeps. How can something as big as God coming into your life fit so neatly into a formula?
For Ms. Ordway it clearly didn’t. Instead, the slow drip, drip, drip of knowledge she gleaned both from books and from individuals near her slowly but surely eroded the hard outer shell of her heart and allowed her to find the presence of God.
I honestly cannot imagine how challenging this was for her. As I think of the academics I know, the information that they have stored in their brains has been so carefully and meticulously catalogued that the foundation of their belief system is seemingly impenetrable. How terrifying it must have been to have that solid base slowly destroyed by the one thing she had fought so hard to disprove her entire academic life! I wonder if she fought against the destruction of her atheistic beliefs; if she ran out to find an atheist foundation repairman so to speak? I cannot wait to read the book to find out but it seems clear that whatever tactic she chose to save herself from finding faith failed.
The thing is that God’s presence in our lives is like that. It is crafty, insidious. Faith does not follow the road we choose for it, but instead, like a river, will find its way through whatever barriers we put before it. It is a moving target that – something easy to find and recognize one day and tremendously challenging to find the next. It changes everything we think we know or understand about the world around us and causes the ground we stand upon to shift and change.
Now I know there are those of you who will say this may be true for some but you know of others who are staunch atheists or at least agnostics and I honestly would have been on your side of the fence previously. I have met arrogant, abusive atheists. I have been confronted with the agnostic demanding proof and understanding of the contradictions posed by the Christian faith. But here is the thing I have come to understand.
Faith resides in us regardless of our desire to find it. Since God created each and every one of us and made us each in His image, we cannot be separated from our faith. What we can be separated from, however, is the desire to choose faith.
Faith, like love, is a choice. For those who are married and have been for some time, you know that loving that person next to you is often harder than you wish it would be. You have to choose to love your spouse despite the challenges. It’s not all romance and flowers – it’s hard work. Faith is the same way. We have to choose to look for it, to acknowledge it and to accept that the journey will not be an easy one.
Each of us that chooses to walk the road of faith are choosing to step into a that river; to walk where the sands do shift. The water can be calm and peaceful at times and at others, can get swept off our feet and carry someplace we never imagined nor hoped. Sometimes it may even pull us under like an undertow and we can feel like we are drowning, unable to find the way to the one thing that brings us life – God.
But in the end, choosing faith IS choosing love. It is choosing the one thing that can carry you to where you want to go and beyond. It is choosing that thing that will help you see that none of the bumps along the way mean anything in comparison to the joy that makes itself know